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White House COVID-19 advisor discusses concerns over the “Delta” variant & low vaccination rates in the South

CDC data provides insight into how the variant is spreading
Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 6:59 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The White House is concerned about southern states like Louisiana where COVID-19 vaccination rates are lower than desired as the “Delta” variant is on the move. And CDC data shows how the variant’s presence is increasing in the U.S.

FOX 8 spoke one-on-one with Dr. Cameron Webb, Senior Advisor for Equity on the White House COVID-19 Task Force.

“We’re concerned about the vaccination rate anywhere where we’re relatively lower and you look at a state you get one picture but if you look at even some of the parishes within Louisiana, you’ll see that there are some places with far lower rates of vaccination than others and those are the places where the virus is most likely to spread,” said Webb.

The “Delta” variant was first identified in India and the mutation has proved to be very deadly there.

“It spreads more quickly, and it could also cause more severe disease and so that’s yet another reason why we feel the vaccine is so important. The vaccines are really effective if you get both doses against the Delta variant,” says Webb.

But public health officials say far too many people are not vaccinated against the coronavirus which continues to mutate.

“The places that are protected are the places that have higher vaccination rates. The places with the lower vaccination rates are not protected and so that’s why we’re going to keep pushing,” said Webb.

According to CDC data, less than 50 percent of the populations for Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

While the CDC says it no longer asks states to report cases of specific variants, it says through its own “Nowcast” data for the two-week period ending June 5. 2021, the national proportion of cases attributed to the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant are predicted to be 6.1 percent, and in HHS Region 4, which includes nine southern states the proportion of cases attributed to the B.1.617.2 variant is predicted to be 3.1 percent.

The Louisiana Department of Health says for the two-week reporting period that ended May 8, less than 1 percent of the sequenced COVID-19 test samples were confirmed to be the “Delta” variant.

And more specifically, LDH says there are four confirmed cases of the India variant in the state.

Not all COVID-19 test samples are sequenced to determine if variants or mutations are present.

New Orleans is a majority African American city, but health department director Dr. Jennifer Avegno told the city council on Thursday (June 8) that African Americans still lag whites in terms of vaccination numbers.

“Forty-six percent of our Black adult residents have received a dose. 71 percent of our white residents. That is a huge disparity. That’s a huge gap in protection and what that does is heighten the risk among unvaccinated Black individuals of COVID,” said Avegno.

Webb was asked about the racial disparity in vaccination rates.

“That is the concern, right, if you have a lower or a less vaccinated black community in parts of New Orleans or parts across the state of Louisiana those are the communities that will continue to be at risk, will continue to see cases, unfortunately, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID,” he said.

He acknowledges that some Americans may never get vaccinated.

“From the studies that we’ve seen it’s somewhere between 20 percent-25 percent of the population, so it’s not the dominant number of people who feel that way, so we’ve got to reach everybody who’s not in that boat first,” Webb stated.

President Joe Biden set a goal of getting 70 percent of U.S. adults to receive at least one dose of a COVID vaccine by July 4.

“It’s definitely realistic. We wouldn’t have set a goal that wasn’t realistic. It’s going to be hard to do and the only way that it happens is if people make the decision every single day that they’re going to go ahead and get vaccinated to protect themselves, their families, and their communities,” said Webb.

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